Call for Support, Education and Mentoring as a Solution to Indiana’s Nursing Shortage – Inside INdiana Business

The nursing profession dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries and has been an industry affected by minor bumps and bruises to extreme illnesses. Over the past few years, however, nurses across the country have been impacted by COVID, and although we are in the endemic phase, it is expected that these professionals will feel the effects for at least three more years.

Indiana is battling nursing shortages that are a direct result of pandemic-related challenges and an aging workforce. In fact, according to the Indiana Hospital Association, Indiana will need approximately 5,000 more nurses by 2031. This statistic should come as a surprise to every one of our communities, as the number of patients requiring care dramatically exceeds the number of nurses available. Through Home Enrollment Law 1003, Hoosier State is taking steps to simplify nurse licensing restrictions to increase enrollment at a faster rate and help mitigate the shortage. Although this new law creates opportunities for growth in the field, some hospitals have not yet implemented this change in their operations.

With daylight saving time around the corner – which will take place on November 6 – night nurses are preparing to work an extra hour on the clock. Although this is an annual event, it is important to note that an extra hour can mean a lot when you are already working a demanding shift. WGU Indiana is bringing attention to these unsung heroes in November and is committed to improving solutions that minimize the strain on our nursing staff and support our healthcare system as a whole.

Create gateways for entry into study programs.

Like all other professions, some nurses aspire to grow in the field and move into more advanced leadership roles. More often than not, this requires access to education, financial stability, time, and a flexible schedule. With high-intensity work and many nurses having families of their own, pursuing higher education can seem out of reach, and it’s not always equal access. It is up to those responsible for health and education to help break down these barriers.

Opportunities can take the form of partnerships with higher education institutions; some being more equipped than others when it comes to providing affordable and accessible courses. Whether it’s entry-level healthcare professionals who want more experience in patient care, like licensed practical nurses or physician assistants, or more experienced workers looking to earn a degree in a more patient-focused role. leadership, education and support within hospital walls and via higher education plays a critical role in this process.

Recognize the importance of preceptors in health care.

Mentors, also known as preceptors, are a critical component for new nurses entering the healthcare field. We are in a time when the profession can seem daunting, especially if there is no internal support system. What we are seeing is the number of nursing preceptors declining amidst the nursing shortage. This is due to retirement and those who voluntarily choose to leave the estate altogether. With the average age of registered nurses being 52, healthcare leaders can address the immense wealth of knowledge these professionals hold and how it can be shared with the younger workforce. Health systems can create ways to incentivize these seasoned nurses to become preceptors, reinforcing the hard work that many have put in over the past decades.

Meeting the mental health needs of nurses.

Discussions about mental health have increased since COVID-19, and understandably. We all need more time to rest and recuperate as our world has been turned upside down in recent years. This is not to create a competition over who has had it or is worse off, but I want to emphasize that nurses and our front line health care workers have taken on immeasurable responsibility to meet our immediate needs, and sometimes deadly, which were the direct result of the pandemic. So while they take care of us, who takes care of them?

Healthcare leaders must implement sustainable benefits and flexibility for their workforce to retain and grow our state’s healthcare workforce. This can take the form of access to education, more flexible hours and innovative compensation designed for a better work-life balance.

If these issues are not addressed, shortages will continue to lead to high nurse-to-patient ratios, which can lead to medication errors and higher morbidity and mortality rates. Fortunately, there are concrete measures to support our precious healthcare workers.

Lisa Eagans, MSN, RNC-MNN, has over 20 years of healthcare experience and is now the state director of pre-licensed nursing for WGU Indiana. Eagans is a lifelong learner who began her career as a CNA and her journey has since evolved from LPN, ASN, BSN and MSN with plans to begin her DNP soon. WGU is a nonprofit online university offering more than 60 degrees across the four colleges of business, education, computer science, and health/nursing.

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